There is an optimum window in which you should prune trees. You can’t just do it whenever you feel like it, or you could wind up doing more damage than good.
Trees should be pruned during late winter, waiting until the coldest part of winter has passed is always advisable.
The reason for pruning trees in winter has to do with the state they are in and how they recover and heal.
We wait until winter to prune the tree for a few reasons.
Trees are dormant – When you prune a tree you are instantly changing its mass and structure which can be quite a shock to the system of the tree. When you prune it in winter, the tree hardly notices as it is in a form of hibernation.
As it slowly emerges from hibernation and all of its systems and processes slowly begin to switch on which means it adapts to the changes gradually causing the tree a lot less stress.
Optimal growth period – We generally prune trees to remove problem branches, for aesthetic appeal or to improve their overall health.
In all cases, a tree will bounce back stronger than ever if it has the whole of spring and summer to grow after the prune.
If you prune towards the end of summer, it spends 4 – 5 months in cold damp environments and unable to begin to heal itself. This leaves it susceptible to pests and disease which can enter through its open wounds.
Healing of wounds – When you remove a branch you leave a huge wound that needs to heal. This can only happen when the tree is growing in spring and summer.
The quicker the wound heals, the less likely the tree is going to die by getting infected with fungi, rot or borer pests.
Note: A tree will not fully heal a wound in one season. It will usually take 2 or 3 years before the wound is fully healed. This why we need to try to shorten the process as much as possible by going it a head start in its first year.
How much should I prune how often?
It really depends on how old the tree is and what you are looking to get out of the prune.
If it is a small tree, you might want to give it a light prune each year. A light prune would be taking no more than 10% off. This is referred to as a remedial prune and it is to help manage a tree’s shape and remove any dead or crossing branches.
This ensures the longevity of the tree.
If you have a mature tree, you should never trim more than 30% in one go. I would only prune this much if it has been several years since the last prune or if the tree is a little sick or looking a little lack-luster.
If you wanted to prune every year, I would not exceed more than 10% of the foliage of the trees.
Why prune trees anyway?
There are lots of reasons pruning a tree is a great idea. Firstly because it is really good for the health of the trees. When you remove branches you are freeing up resources for the tree to spend on other things like new growth and thickening current branches.
Other reasons include:
Aesthetic curb appeal – Having a well-manicured tree is a lot like mowing your lawn, if you keep on top of it regularly, it will grow thick and lush which really improves the curb appeal of your property.
Safety – Dead branches in trees can be a safety concern and should be removed at your soonest convenience. They can come crashing down out of larger trees causing quite a lot of damage in the process.
Fruit production – If you correctly prune a fruit tree, you will notice a sizable uptick in fruit production the next year. This is because the tree is able to put more of its resources into producing fruit rather than maintaining excess branches.
Best time to prune fruit trees
Fruit trees are similar to regular trees in relation to their internal functions, so you will want to optimize your timing and prune your fruit tree in late winter also.
Some blogs do suggest it can be done after the tree bears fruit in late summer, but I suggest you leave it as is over the winter and get it just before it buds for the new season just before spring.
Cost to prune trees
The cost to prune trees does vary depending on the size of the tree and the amount you intend to remove.
The average price for tree pruning is $423. This price takes into account small palm tree prunes for $60 up to large Eucalyptus tree prunes.
For a more detailed breakdown of the cost of tree pruning by size, please visit our tree pruning cost guide here.